Friday, March 28, 2008
Julie & Joyce
This weekend I am visiting my sister, Julie, who just had a baby. Julie is so brave. Today, we sat in a seminar on the environment, scientific rhetoric and the Bush administration, at Indiana University, to which she brought her new 2-month old, Joyce. Julie breast fed discretely. Joyce slept. The other students seemed to appreciate her presence, some seemed a bit shocked, others pretended to ignore. But, Julie went on as the person she is - a graduate student who is in the middle of a program, who is also the mother of a new child.
Almost without exception, motherhood/breast feeding and life otherwise are seen as mutually exclusive happenings. This is perhaps a winded debate - but I see the whole thing as absurd watching my sister. It is simply nonsensical to relegate women with babies to their homes/private spaces for the duration of their lives while feeding their children. The reality is that babies must eat, and frequently (like every three hours). And the parallel reality is that my sister and other women are also students, teachers, involved humans and there is no reason that there should be such a division between the two. Julie teaches her undergrads with Joyce wrapped in a bundle at the front of her body.
I admire her entirely, forcefully. She makes waves in her department. People hear about 'that baby' before they meet Julie or Joyce. The discussion today floated toward transformative discourses and activism and Julie sat as a physical reminder of that possibility. She changes the way people think about what is possible in the choice between private/public lives - a choice that many women simply see as a matter of impossibility, and not as choice at all.